Home > News > High Court considers partial costs awards in respect of planning appeals

Braintree District Council v SSHCLG [2021] EWHC 651 (QB)

In a judgment handed down on 18 March 2021 the High Court has dismissed a claim brought by Braintree District Council against a grant of planning permission for a gypsy and traveller site. Planning permission had been granted on an appeal against an enforcement notice and the Council also challenged the partial award of costs made against it by the Inspector.

Having rejected the Council’s argument that the Inspector had misinterpreted policies within its development plan, the Judge went on to consider the Council’s argument that the Inspector’s costs decision was legally defective because it was not possible to identify the part of the appellant’s costs that the Council was required to pay. Reliance was placed by the Council upon Scrivens v SSCLG [2013] EWHC 3549 (Admin) at [36], which indicates that a costs order should specify with sufficient certainty that part of the receiving party’s costs which are to be paid by the paying party; and upon the observation of Holgate J at [165] in Mayor of London v SSHCLG [2020] EWHC 1176 (Admin) that a paying party and a receiving party are both entitled to a decision from the Secretary of State on what s/he considers the nature of the wasted costs to be.

The Judge upheld the costs decision, rejecting the Council’s argument that s. 250(5) of the Local Government Act 1972 requires the costs order itself to specify the nature of the costs to be paid. The Judge reasoned as follows (at [64]):

“The Claimant’s argument appears to derive no support from authority. Neither [Scrivens] nor [Mayor of London] is authority for the proposition that uncertainty or lack of clarity in the costs order itself, as to that part of the receiving party’s costs which the paying party must pay, may not lawfully be resolved by reference to the reasons given by the Defendant for making a partial award of costs. Such a restrictive approach would be contrary to the well-established principle that planning and enforcement appeal decisions must be read as a whole.”

Heather Sargent defended the claim for the Secretary of State.

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